Former Montreal Expos and Minnesota Twins pitcher Charlie Lea who was born to military parents in Orleans, France on December 25, 1956 was found dead yesterday of an apparent heart attack at his home at the age of 54. Lea was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1978 and made his major league debut with the Expos on June 12, 1980. Lea was a mainstay in the Expos starting rotation between 1980 and 1984 before an arm injury derailed his career. Lea pitched a 4-0 no-hitter against the San Francisco Giants on May 10, 1981 at Stade Olympique Stadium in the second game of a double-header and in the process became the first French born pitcher to pitch a major league no-hitter. Lea was an All-Star in 1984 and was the starting and winning pitcher for the National league. Lea had to sit out the 1985 and 1986 season due to injuries and came back with the Expos in 1987 with little success. Lea signed a free agent contract with Minnesota in February of 1988 and was in the 1988 starting rotation all season, finishing with a 7-7 mark with a 4.85 ERA in 23 starts. Charlie Lea retired from baseball after the 1988 season.
In recent years Charlie Lea served as a radio broadcaster for his home town Triple-A Memphis Redbirds. Broadcast partner Steve Selby remembered Lea’s “easy-going style”.
“It was like you were sitting in a rocking chair on the porch,” Selby said. ”And he was so unassuming. You would have never known he had played major league baseball unless you asked him. So many analysts are quick to tell you ‘When I played major league baseball . . .’ Charlie never did that.
“It’s obvious he had inside knowledge of the game and wanted to tell you what he knew. A lot of players distance themselves from the game because their careers may not have ended the way they wanted. Charlie was positive about everything. We became good friends. There’s a huge hole in my life right there.”
Charlie Lea pitched in the big leagues for seven seasons and finished with a 62-48 record with a 3.54 ERA in 152 games with 144 starts.